Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Note: This is a powerful essay written to honor George Washington's birthday, by Scott Johnson at Powerline blog. I was so impressed that I had to post it here, please stop by Powerline and see the great work they do over there, defending freedom for our great Republic. Awesome post, thanks Scott.
Remembering the indispensable man
by Scott Johnson, Powerline
Today is the anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Of all the great men of the revolutionary era to whom we owe our freedom, Washington's greatness was the rarest and the most needed. At this remove in time, it is also the hardest to comprehend.
Take, for example, Washington's contribution to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Washington's mere presence lent the undertaking and its handiwork the legitimacy that resulted in success. The convention's first order of business was the election of a presiding officer. Washington was the delegates' unanimous choice.
Presiding over the convention during that fateful summer, Washington said virtually nothing. In his wonderful book on Washington, Richard Brookhiser notes: "The esteem in which Washington was held affected his fellow delegates first of all...Washington did not wield the power he possessed by speaking. Apart from his lecture on secrecy, Washington did not address the Convention between the first day and the last."
The esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens was similarly crucial to the implementation of the Constitution during his presidency. In 1790 Rhode Island became the thirteenth state to ratify the Constitution. To mark the occasion, President Washington made a ceremonial visit to Newport when Congress recessed in August. Newport welcomed Washington with open arms. In Newport on August 18, according to James Thomas Flexner, Washington "completely fatigued the company" by briskly walking, fortified by the wine and punch served in four different houses along his route, from nine in the morning until one in the afternoon.
In anticipation of Washington's visit to Newport, the members of America's oldest Jewish congregation prepared a letter welcoming Washington for presentation to him at a public event on the morning of August 18. The letter was authorized by the congregation's board and signed by its president, Moses Seixas. It is Washington's magnificent letter responding to Seixas's that is known as a testament to religious freedom and that has become famous as one of the classic statements of religious toleration in America.
The congregation's letter to Washington is not so well known. Ironically, however, the most famous line in Washington's letter is an echo of the congregation's letter to Washington. By far the most striking feature of the congregation's letter is its eloquent expression of sheer gratitude to Washington himself and to America for the freedom and equal rights the congregants have attained as American citizens. Here is the congregation's letter:
Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits ~~ and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to NewPort.
With pleasure we reflect on those days ~~ those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword, ~~ shielded Your head in the day of battle: ~~ and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States.
Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People ~~ a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance ~~ but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: ~~
deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: ~~ This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.
For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men ~~beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life: ~~ And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.
Done and Signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, Rhode Island August 17th 1790.
Moses Seixas, Warden
Today, as we resist the contemporary equivalent of "the Babylonish empire," let us send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days for this indispensable man.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:
"Come to me, you who are overburdened,
and I will give you rest...
for I am gentle and humble of heart."
Let that loving voice be my guide.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, With Open Hands
Monday, February 15, 2010
by Mary Cosby
I need to love something so desperately that the love of it will cast out every fear. A lot of us know about that kind of love. For something, some cause, some combination of wonder that is happening -- to love it so desperately that you move right into it and there is no fear because your love is so great. The highest love is that of the Lord himself. That love can be so focused, so deep, so intense and so related to the call of God that even when I know I'm not "safe" in the surface sense, being faithful to that call I know I'm safe. I know that all things are working together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.
Source: Sermon (April 30 1989)
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Here are some pretty excellent descriptions of love from the eyes of children. Sometimes kids get it a lot better than grownups... and here, some of these kids are pretty amazing in their takeaways of love. For instance, the one boy who says that when someone loves you, your name is safe in their mouth -- pretty awesome! Or, the boy who says that love is what is in the room at Christmas if you stop opening gifts and just listen. Or, the girl who says that love is the grandfather who paints the toenails of his wife, when she can no longer bend over from arthritis... incredible! So, enjoy!
Rebecca - age 8:
'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'
Billy - age 4:
'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.'
Karl - age 5
'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.'
Chrissy - age 6:
'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
Terri - age 4:
'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'
Danny - age 7:
'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.'
Emily - age 8:
'Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My Mommy and Daddy are like that.. They look gross when they kiss'
Bobby - age 7:
'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.'
Nikka - age 6:
'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.'
Noelle - age 7:
'Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday..'
Tommy - age 6:
'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.'
Cindy - age 8:
'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.
He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.'
Clare - age 6:
'My mommy loves me more than anybody You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night...'
'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.'
Chris - age 7:
'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.'
Mary Ann - age 4:
'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.'
Lauren - age 4:
'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.'
Karen - age 7:
'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.'
Mark - age 6:
'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross.'
Jessica - age 8:
'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.'
Happy Valentine's Day! :-)
Words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Tune: Da Christus geboren war (Meter: 77 77 D)
Let us join -'tis God commands -
Let us join our hearts and hands;
Help to gain our calling's hope,
Build we each the other up:
Still forget the things behind,
Follow Christ in heart and mind,
Toward the mark unwearied press,
Seize the crown of righteousness.
While we walk with God in light,
God our hearts doth still unite;
Dearest fellowship we prove,
Fellowship in Jesu's love:
Sweetly each, with each combined,
In the bonds of duty joined,
Feels the cleansing blood applied,
Daily feels that Christ hath died.
Still, O Lord, for faith increase,
Cleanse from all unrighteousness:
Thee the unholy cannot see;
Make, O make us meet for Thee!
Every vile affection kill,
Root out every seed of ill,
Utterly abolish sin,
Write Thy law of love within.
Hence may all our actions flow,
Love the proof that Christ we know;
Mutual love the token be,
Lord, that we belong to Thee:
Love, Thine image, love impart!
Stamp it on our face and heart!
Only love to us be given!
Lord, we ask no other heaven.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Words: William Cowper (1731-1800)
Tune: Llandaf (Meter: LM)
God of my life, to you I call;
afflicted, at your feet I fall;
when the great water-floods prevail,
leave not my trembling heart to fail.
Friend of the friendless and the faint,
where should I lodge my deep complaint?
Where, but with you, whose open door
invites the helpless and the poor?
Did sufferers ever with you plead
and you refuse them in their need?
Does not your promised word remain,
that none shall seek your face in vain?
Grief such as that I could not bear,
unless you heard and answered prayer;
but a prayer-hearing, answering God
supports me under every load.
Bright is my future in your love;
I have an advocate above:
those whom the world admires the most
have no such privilege to boast.
Poor and forgotten I am, yet
the living God does not forget:
all those are safe, and must succeed
for whom Christ promises to plead.
Words: John Newton (1725-1807)
Does the gospel word proclaim
Rest for those who weary be?
Then, my soul, put in thy claim;
Sure that promise speaks to thee.
Marks of grace I cannot show;
All polluted is my breast;
Yet I weary am, I know,
And the weary long for rest.
Burdened with a load of sin;
Harassed with tormenting doubt;
Hourly conflicts from within;
Hourly crosses from without;
All my little strength is gone;
Sink I must without supply;
Sure upon the earth there's none
Can more weary be than I.
In the ark the weary dove
Found a welcome resting-place;
Thus my spirit longs to prove
Rest in Christ, the Ark of grace.
Tempest-tossed I long have been
And the flood increases fast;
Open, Lord, and take me in
Till the storm be overpast.
Monday, February 08, 2010
There's just something about a snowstorm, something surreal and magical -- blanketed by the falling snow, patterns in the streetlights and skylight, the world shut out and promise all around... it's easy to forget that each snowflake in this panorama of beauty is unique. Every one!
It's kind of mind boggling in its own right: apart from the beauty, what about the wonder of uniqueness? In the recent storm that dropped two feet of snow from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., every flake -- every single one of these billion "Snowpocalypse" flakes was individual.
It's incredible! And a great reminder of our own individual place before God. Kierkegaard talks about the radical responsibility of responding to God as an individual. Brokenness hides in a crowd of others broken in similar ways, but wholeness begins in daring to be a true self before God, to stand in the divine gaze without hiding in a crowd, without using the crowd to justify condition and action.
Jesus put it something like this, "If Abba so clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?" Also, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them falls to the ground without the will of your Abba. Even the very hairs of your head are numbered! So don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows!" How much more will He care for you?
If God has created the world to produce individual snowflakes, which are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more does He relate to you, O eternal soul, spirit being?
Note: Here is a slideshow of snowflakes, shots taken by the pioneering science-artist photographer Wilson Bentley between the years of 1885 and 1931.
Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies. The Christian is not a naive, innocent infant who has no identity apart from a feeling of being comforted and protected and catered to but a person who has discovered an identity that is given by God which can be enjoyed best and fully in a voluntary trust in God. We do not cling to God desperately out of fear and the panic of insecurity; we come to God freely in faith and love.
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
It's amazing to me how many religious people actually fear hearing from God. We've created a faith language/life that neatly excises the voice of God out of daily life -- is it because we instinctively know that if we admit the voice of God, anything is possible? And we are responsible on a far higher level than ever we imagined?
Or maybe it's about control...? We can control a Book, we can control a religious service, but the voice of Abba in daily life, here, aware, Living, powerful and real? Speaking to me and expectant of me? No, can't be.
Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal: he'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.
The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.
On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger. Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple. With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.
Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened. The Pope said, 'First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. The rabbi responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins, and the rabbi pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue.'
Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won. 'I haven't a clue,' said the rabbi. 'First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy , so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.
'And then what?' asked a woman. 'Who knows?' said the rabbi. 'He took out his lunch so I took out mine.'
[cue drumroll and cymbols, lol]
Monday, February 01, 2010
Rahm Emanuel, Obama's hand-picked chief of staff:
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
John F. Cogan, Stanford enconomist:
"We are presently in a dangerously risky economic environment, more risky than any in memory, and that includes the 1970s..."
Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara:
There are only two credible explanations for the Obama administration's fiscal policy -- to the extent that one can infer it from actions, not words. One is that the American educational system has been failing for decades, and we are now paying the price. The focus on jobs per se, rather than jobs that restore the country's productivity, can only lead to runaway inflation by pouring fruitless money into the economy. Might as well just print money and give people gifts. The road to durable recovery must be paved with a serious effort to restore productivity to the economy, not to redistribute what wealth we have left. It is not jobs that we need, it is productive jobs. Is it possible that the Administration powers-that-be don't know this?
A blacker possibility is that they do know it, and are looking forward to a complete economic collapse, for political reasons I dare not discuss. As one of them said, a crisis enables you to do things of which you would otherwise be incapable.